My first job out of college was as a project coordinator for a startup in Vail, Colorado. The company built and managed amazing ski-in, ski-out homes — the kind we’ve all seen on MTV’s “Cribs.” Looking back, it was a great first job that almost any new graduate would have loved to land.
This was my first taste of personal and professional discomfort.
On any given day, I’d be working on 10 different things without knowing my exact purpose, whether it was combing through a construction budget or analyzing data for an upcoming direct mail campaign. I was new and didn’t know how to handle it. Discomfort set in quickly and I was ready to move back to my “safe zone” and chase the 9-to-5 life.
Luckily, I had a hard-charging boss who saw a glimpse of potential and was willing give me the tough love I needed. Every day was a surprise, but there was always a purpose behind his leadership tactics. I now consider him one of the most influential mentors in my life. On one of our many rides up to the job site, he told me that I needed to be where my feet were.
Those words motivated me to change the way I think. I wasn’t mentally present and my current path wasn’t at all aligned with the life I always told myself I wanted. I didn’t change overnight, but I spent the next three years focusing on how to get fully immersed in the business. I gained priceless experience as an entrepreneur along the way.
Who knows what would have happened if I had never heard those powerful words. Below are four skills to practice to help you “be where your feet are.”
Get comfortable being uncomfortable
Stepping out of your comfort zone and embracing challenges will build your strength to overcome bigger obstacles. Entrepreneur and BAM Communications founder Beck Bamberger sets a great example: I began following Beck’s stories after meeting her virtually through an entrepreneur organization we’re both members of.
She constantly puts herself in uncomfortable situations to see if she can get more comfortable doing bigger and bolder things in the world. Two of my favorite examples are when she worked as a window washer for a day on the side of a skyscraper, and lived homeless for a night in the city. She embraces being uncomfortable in the wildest ways. Take a moment and learn something new and remind yourself it’s only difficult the first time.
Can you imagine what direction your life would take if the fear of getting out of your comfort zone was nonexistent?
Take ownership and worry about yourself
Your actions write the script of your reputation, so worry only about the things you can control and practice taking ownership in your life. This will help build your immunity to fear. And when you’re not scared of an outcome or things outside of your control, you will realize you’re solely focused on getting things done. For example, say that disaster strikes your biggest project due to the actions of a subcontractor. Should the subcontractor be worrying about who to blame, or taking ownership of the situation and implementing actionable steps toward a solution?
You’ll learn it’s easier to solve problems when you’re focused on what you can directly impact.
Refuse to lose
When you are fully committed and performing at the highest level, you learn there is always a “win” in every scenario. It might not be the win you originally wanted, but it will be a win. This winning mindset will transform your previous negativity into an inventory of life lessons that drive performance.
This winning mindset will transform your previous negativity into an inventory of life lessons that drive performance. It took me a long time to figure this out, but the dots connected after attending a mental toughness academy with Ben Newman. It was a two-day event that transformed my mindset. After my first event, I ended up attending four more events and became a sponsor. I became a wild believer in mental toughness training and it’s directly correlated to my mindset of refusing to lose.
Learn how to show appreciation
It’s easier to be present when you have close ties to your peers, and showing appreciation is a great way to build those relationships. Keep it simple and start small. For example, if someone at the office helped you with an Excel formula and saved you hours of work, don’t just say thank you. Explain to them how their quick tip is going to skyrocket your efficiency. Connect their actions to your improvement and let them know the impact they made when they decided to lend a hand. Practice showing appreciation every day and you’ll develop much stronger relationships at every level.
People don’t get paid well to solve easy problems, and you’ll never learn to be an amazing problem solver if you’re not present. Making the commitment to be where your feet are and practicing these skills every day will have a compounding effect on your success.
Drew Gurley is the cofounder of PolicyZip and Redbird Advisors, overseeing agency development and insurance marketing in North, South, and Central America.
This article first appeared on BusinessCollective. BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.